Which 1000 words does your photo tell?

I was told that a picture must be self-explanatory some say a picture is worth 1000 words, i.e. the person viewing the picture should understand what is going on without a title and without speaking to the creator of the picture.

When I was told that I never really understood what that meant and how I was supposed to portray that in one shot. If the reader wasn’t with me and they don’t know the subject matter like I do, and they may or may not care what the subject is, how do I tell them the story?

Over the years as I developed as a photographer I realised that this skill makes your photographs stand out, and pushes you to get better and pay more attention to the small details in the photo.

So how do you tell a story in a picture without using words? I think the best way to do this is to show the reader the different parts of the story in the picture. That is by using the foreground, the background and the subject matter to each have their say in the final story that the picture is telling.

Examples

I photographed the Brighton Jetty Classic in Adelaide, and was tasked to show the event at its best. So the story behind the photo was to show the Brighton Jetty, the swimmers in open water and that the people swimming are in a competition. The three examples show how the story is told better in each example.

Picture worth 1000 words This image shows the open water swim aspect, shows the competition as they are all wearing the same caps, and shows some competition, but it does not show the location.

Picture worth 1000 words This image shows off the location, and if you look closely enough you can see the competition but it’s not the focus of the shot. Again it tells a story but not the whole story.

1000 Words 03This image now shows the open water swim, the Brighton Jetty location and the competition. It tells the whole story. The three aspects are combined into the one photo.

1000 Words 06Lastly I was asked to capture a Ford fanatic’s large car collection, and his large shed. He also drives a sprint car. To get all of that into one picture I took this shot, bearing in mind the green car was not running at the time, so the shed had to be the location for the shoot. This photo was commissioned for Street Machine Magazine.

Try This

Give a picture with no title to a friend and ask them to tell you what the photo tells them. Compare that to the reason you took the image and what you were trying to put across.

What are your thoughts?